What Exercises can I do for Arthritis in my Knees?

Date Posted : September 28, 2021

A list of easy and practical exercises that can be done at home to help with arthritis in the knees.

So you're feeling a bit weak in the knees?

The knee is actually one of the most commonly affected joints when it comes to Osteoarthritis as they are a weight-bearing joint. And while it can sometimes be difficult to get up and moving when you're feeling weakness and pain, exercise is actually one of the most recommended ways to relieve and treat Osteoarthritis.

While everyone's Osteoarthritis is going to look different in symptoms and severity, there are simple and practical life changes and exercises that can work for everyone. It is important to try these "first line defences" before stepping into more individualized, second line treatments. Who knows! After your first line treatments, second line treatments may even become unnecessary.

Over a 6 week period, I teach my GLA:D participants a series of exercises designed to be done easily at home and help them with their knee (or hip) Osteoarthritis. Here are a few of my favourite, tried and true, exercises and stretches that can help Osteoarthritis in your knees.

Partial Squats 

A classic that can be easily modified based on your ability. Start by standing up straight with your feet shoulder width apart, then slowly start to lower yourself, as if into an invisible chair, while looking straight ahead. Keep your weight in your heels, once you've lowered down, push back up through your heels to stand.

Squats help to strengthen your leg and hip muscles, which in turn help to relieve pressure off your knees when you do simple day to day tasks which require you to lower yourself down.

Quad Stretches

Another simple move you can do easily at home. While standing, bend your knee back by holding on to your ankle with one hand. Maintain this position for several seconds before slowly returning to standing position and repairing the move on the opposite leg. 

These stretches can improve both the strength and flexibility of your quadriceps. Because the main function of your quads is to extend or straighten your knee, they kind of act like your body's natural knee brace and, when they're strong, help tremendously in relieving pressure from your knee when you're doing everyday things like moving from standing to sitting or even walking.

Calf Raises

You may have noticed already that most of these exercises are low impact and targeted at muscles surrounding your knees. When we strengthen the muscles around your knee, we are able to keep some of the pressure off of our knees, thereby helping with our osteoarthritis symptoms. Calf raises do just this! 

Best done without shoes, stand with your feet hip width apart and toes straight ahead. Slowly lift your heels off the floor, raising up onto your toes. Hold this position, then slowly lower. 

Lying Side Leg Raises

Lie on your side with your legs stretched out. Rest your head comfortably on your arm and place the hand of your other arm on the floor in front of you to stabilize your body. Then begin to lift your top leg slowly towards the ceiling, keeping your toe pointing forwards. Repeat this a few times before switching sides and doing the same number of leg lift repetitions with your other leg. If you want this exercise to be more challenging, try using a resistance band just above your knee joint to add a little tension. 

This move is fairly simple and helps to build strength in your outer thighs and hip abductors, which makes it great at increasing your hips range of motion and body's stabilization - both things that will help relieve pressure on your knees in day to day activities.

Crab Walks with Resistance Bands

This one is a fun one! Stand with your resistance band around both thighs and just above the knee. Then, put a bit of a bend in both knees and step sideways with one foot so you're standing with your feet wide apart. Step with your other foot to meet the first one and continue walking sideways (like a crab). After you've gone a few steps, reverse your direction and go the other way the same number of steps. 

Crab walks can be a good way to strengthen your glutes, which will take some of the load bearing off of your knees. 

Are you struggling with a knee injury? I'm taking part in a program conducted by a team of physiotherapy researchers at the University of British Columbia known as SOAR (stop osteoarthritis). We are looking for individuals aged 16-35 with sports or recreational knee injuries to test out our SOAR program. Designed to help people with their knee injuries and reduce the risks of Osteoarthritis, the program is free to participants and includes a one time knee camp, individualized home knee exercise program, weekly one on one physiotherapy, and an optional group exercise class! 

If this sounds like something you may be interested in, click this link and take a few minutes to fill out a questionnaire about your knees and to sign up, or contact me (Nadine Plotkinoff).

    While everyone's Osteoarthritis is going to look different in symptoms and severity, there are simple and practical life changes and exercises that can work for everyone.